Premier League - Akpom strike hands Arsenal narrow win in Japan

Friendly, Saitama Stadium 2002 - Urawa Red Diamonds 1 (Abe 59) Arsenal 2 (Podolski 49, Akpom 82)

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Premier League - Akpom strike hands Arsenal narrow win in Japan
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Arsenal's Lukas Podolski (3rd L) celebrates with teammates, including Ryo Miyaichi (2nd L), after scoring against Urawa Reds during their friendly soccer match as part of Arsenal's Asia Tour 2013 in Saitama, north of Tokyo July 26, 2013. (Reuters)

Teenager Chuba Akpom came off the bench to score a late winner for Arsenal in an entertaining 2-1 win over Japanese side Urawa Red Diamonds.

Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain hit the post and bar respectively, as Arsenal struggled to turn their first-half dominance into goals.

Lukas Podolski came off the bench to finally fire Arsenal ahead soon after the break, but Urawa Reds levelled through captain Yuki Abe after failing to clear a corner.

But Arsenal grabbed a late winner through Akpom, who stroked into an empty net after a defensive mix-up.

With talk of a record-breaking move for Luis Suarez intensifying, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger had to block out the distractions as they returned to the field in the Tokyo suburb of Saitama.

Thankfully for Arsenal, the pitch was of a much higher quality than seen in recent matches in Asia involving Tottenham and Liverpool, and Arsenal nearly made an early breakthrough against a well-organised Urawa Reds. Mikel Arteta released Walcott with a perfect through ball, and the winger cut inside onto his left foot but could only find the base of the post.

Urawa Reds had their chances too, with Brazilian midfielder Marcio Richardes unable to turn the ball in from close range under pressure from Per Mertersacker.

But Arsenal were on top and Walcott blazed over after he had been given a sight at goal following Oxlade-Chamberlain's neat dummy and Olivier Giroud's cushioned pass. Oxlade-Chamberlain himself could have broken the deadlock, but his shot from 20 yards grazed the top of the bar.

Urawa Reds right-back Tomoya Ugajin almost found the net in spectacular fashion when he cut in from the right and arrowed a brilliant shot towards the far top corner, but Lukasz Fabianski threw himself to his right to pull off a brilliant one-handed stop.

Arsenal finally made the breakthrough barely four minutes into the second half, and it was one of the several half time substitutes that made an immediate impression. After good work by Aaron Ramsey on the right, Walcott laid the ball back to Podolski, who lashed into the bottom corner from 12 yards.

Walcott seemed to be involved in everything for Arsenal, but the England man should have added a second when he was sent clean through, only to see the ball plucked from his toes as he tried to take it around goalkeeper Norihiro Yamagishi.

Arsenal were punished for their wastefulness just before the hour when Urawa Reds equalised. Failing to clear the near post flick-on from a corner, Reds captain Abe lashed in a volley from close range.

Both sides spurned chances to win this open contest, but Arsenal finally grabbed the winner they deserved when 17-year-old Akpom found the net.

Capitalising on a misunderstanding between Yamagishi and defender Takuya Nagata, Akpom nicked in and stroked the ball into the empty net to keep Arsenal's winning run in Asia intact.

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